New Almodóvar film? I’m So Excited!

Ahead of the release of Pedro Almodóvar’s new film I’m So Excited!, Nathan Richardson ponders whether the Spanish director has his head in the clouds, or rooted in reality… 

When it comes to air travel, Pedro Almodóvar tells an audience in Hackney, our fantasies ‘concern either sex or death.’ This is the Picturehouse Cinemas Q&A session for new Almodóvar film, I’m So Excited!

These subjects are by no means new ground for the Spanish director and are to the fore in his latest picture, which is set largely on an aeroplane. In short, it would seem we can quite rightly expect to find ourselves in typical Almodóvar territory.

To some extent at least, the answer is yes: the boundaries of sexuality are collapsed, mocked almost; there is a commanding female lead (Almodóvar favourite, Celia Roth); various narratives over-lap, and the whole thing is glossed with his usual melodramatic finish. But where this film differs from his more recent efforts is that it is an unequivocal comedy, an hysterical piece that shall doubtlessly, in weeks to come, have the dubious term “laugh-out-loud funny” splashed across city bus advertisements.

The pretext for the film is a plane journey from Spain to Mexico that experiences technical problems. In between mescaline-laced Valencia cocktails, the three strikingly camp flight attendants, in a bid to abate the worry of those flying business class (economy, naturally, were immediately put into a drug-induced trance), agree to perform a piece from their repertoire of songs. They choose The Pointer Sisters’ 1980s hit I’m So Excited. What follows is a most camp and colourful, fun and fabulous scene, and one that shall be the starting point, I suspect, of many conversations about the film.

“This film should absolutely not be discarded as slushy nostalgia”

The Valencia cocktail, Almodóvar says, was a popular drink in the 1980s, just as the song from which the film takes its title was, and indeed the light-hearted, comedic mood certainly resembles the work he was producing in that decade, such as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). But this film should absolutely not be discarded as slushy nostalgia. If there is one lamentable aspect to making a comedy, it is that you run the risk of not being taking seriously; that something so garish and loud could not possibly say anything about humanity, about the world in which we live today. Almodóvar dispels this.

On a closer inspection, the aeroplane’s technical issue is clearly a metaphor for Spain’s current economic climate. Unable to find a runway, the plane, we are told, is simply continually circling the city, and, well, an emergency landing has to take place at some point. At the beginning of the film, as the safety procedures are carried out by the attendants, the camera pans across the passengers, all looking suitably bored and uninterested, and from the newspaper that one man holds, we see one page entirely concerned with ‘The Best Financial Disasters of the Year.’

This theme, and this sense of sheer exaggeration, lingers throughout. But while the plane journey allows Almodóvar to plunge into this issue, it allows for his characters to escape it: removed from society, from the world, these things become trivial, and what descends is revelry – the characters distract themselves with drink, sex, and dance, and it is in these scenes of the carnivalesque where the humour lies, and where you sense that Almodóvar is attempting to express something, to suggest, perhaps, the things he considers to be truly important in life.

I’m So Excited! is a fun film. Watch it and it will make you laugh. In places it is absurd, sassy, hilarious, but amid the song and dance is a slightly more serious tone, though it rarely strays into intellectually challenging territory, and bears little in common with some of his most notable works; All About My Mother (1999), for example, or Talk To Her (2002).

I would recommend this film, to both Almodóvar fans, and those perhaps not so familiar with his work. It is a “feel good” film, though I don’t suppose any airlines will be giving it in-fight movie status any time soon…

Nathan Richardson

I’m So Excited! shows on general release from Friday, 3rd May

Posted on 25/04/2013 by thedoublenegative